Argentina and Uruguay will warm up for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with a run in the first international tournament to be held in Rio de Janeiro this weekend.
The Rio Sevens will give Brazilians a taste of what to expect when the Olympics is held in 2016, and will feature all eight IRB member unions in South America - Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela - as well as Guatemala and Ecuador who will be making their debut after receiving the official blessings of their respective National Olympic Committees.
The tournament, which will be broadcast live across Brazil, is being funded by the International Rugby Board, which is taking great pains to see that the soccer-mad country is ready to host to rugby's return to the Olympics in four years.
'As a strong Olympic nation with a proud passion for sport, I know Brazil will be an excellent host of the Games. The IRB-funded Rio Sevens is the perfect opportunity for the local organisers and wider sport-loving public to get to know rugby sevens, embrace the excitement and the festival and get a flavour of what to expect in four years' time. The IRB is pleased to be supporting this tournament,' IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said.
Argentina, a core team in the HSBC Sevens World Series, are clear favourites to win the tournament, which will also boast of a separate eight-team event for women. Hosts Brazil are the favourites in the women's event.
Uruguay are seeded second in the men's competition, and they will also be hoping for a good performance in the run-up to the Hong Kong event on March 23-25, as they are among the 12 qualifiers hoping to win one of three berths as core teams in 2013.
Uruguay are grouped with Hong Kong in pool D at the Hong Kong Sevens, which also includes Tonga and China.
IRB funding for South America will amount to US$3.2 million for 2012 with a total of US$500,000 invested in Brazil rugby over the past two years.